Mathew Lionnet | FRACTEL Co-Owner
My running story begins from a young age...
My dad was an avid runner and completed 6 Comrades Marathons before I was ten years old, which inspired me but also brought to light the pitfalls of running. My dad fell prone to a series of back problems and in the end had to give up running due to his injuries. I saw first hand the effect that had on him physically, mentally and emotionally, as well as the joy and elation the achievement offered.
Originally from Durban, South Africa, the Comrades Marathon is a huge part of annual life for both those who participate and for those who live in Durban. Every year, tens of thousands finish the gruelling 89km autumn road run, swearing that they won’t put themselves through the hurt again next year, only to be seduced back a few months later to start training again when the wear and tear has worn off and they start searching for that euphoric feeling. Like a dance with the devil each year, they keep coming back.
Growing up, I did some cross country as a young kid, but then moved away from running as a sport and spent more time playing soccer and hockey during my school years. I quickly realised that running was definitely a strength I brought to playing sport, which made up for my lack of actual talent, haha.
I truly got back into running towards the end of University. All the drinking and partying was slowly taking its toll and I needed something to focus on, and so I found that in half marathon running.
There is a great running group in Durban North called Regents Harriers. Runners and walkers meet every Tuesday and Friday morning and make their way along a different 10km route through the leafy suburbs. Sometimes as many as 500 people! Taking part in this weekly routine as a 21 year old, I treated each run like a race, my best friend and I secretly competing against one another. Our healthy rivalry helped us push each other and demand more from ourselves in every run.
Initially, I swore to only stick to the shorter distances, knowing how demanding running can be on the body from my dad’s experience. However, after completing some longer runs with a friend and my imminent immigration to Australia, I decided it was time I took the giant leap and give Comrades Marathon a crack. Naively, with only 3 months until the race, and having never run more than 30km in training, I decided it was still a good idea to give it a go. The race didn't go as planned but I finished the race in just under 10 hours. It was from there that my love for Ultra running began to flourish.
Since moving to Australia, running has given me a platform to make great friends and explore some incredible places. I probably wouldn't be writing this or be part of this wonderful Fractel community if it wasn't for an almost literal flyby encounter, where Matt Niutta, the Founder of Fractel, dashed past me whilst out on a road run in Buderim. He connected with me via Strava afterwards, inviting me to join their social run club they had going at the time, and the rest is now history.
I'm still very wary of the risks of running and how it may affect my body down the track so I lean to the side of caution, and make sure I maintain a balance. But at the same time, I'm so thankful for what running gives back to me - it gives me the time I need to clear my head after a long day, or start a day afresh with a stunning sunrise. It gives me the opportunity to spend time with friends and allows us to encourage each other to dig deep when having a challenging run. But most unexpectedly, running helped me get through some dark times and gave me time, space and freedom to deal with my thoughts and emotions. It truly is a wonderful sport and pastime. I hope I've got many more years in the legs, body and mind, and to add more stories and adventures as I go.
I could go on, but I'll leave it at that. Happy running and thanks for reading.